How to Pick Out the Sales-Superstars from the Rest when Recruiting sales staff

Selecting the most talented applicants for sales roles presents obstacles for employers and recruiting managers.

Sales people typically interview well, are skilled in presenting positive images and brushing over what they don’t want their interviewer to know.  Sales candidates also tend to arrive with glowing references, but for differing reasons.

Sales selection processes that allow candidates to avoid potential areas of concern opens employers up to the risk of making poor selection decisions on the staff critical to the growth of the business.

Many people cringe when recalling the impact poor selection decisions have had on their business and staff morale in the past and the cost of rectifying those decisions.  For those who remain unconvinced, consider the dollar impact on your bottom-line of a sales person exceeding one hundred percent of their targets.  What does that bottom line look like if the ‘successful applicant’ is only hitting sixty percent? And what does that say about your decision making abilities to the rest of the team?  Suddenly, the priority for getting the selection decision right first time floats to the top but the good news is that achieving sound sales selection decisions can be readily achieved by following three simple steps:


Firstly, ensure that your interview technique is strong, thorough and objective.  If you don’t feel you interview very well or very often, bring a seasoned interviewer in to assist you.  With sales applicants, interviewers need to be prepared to be persistent in eliciting specific examples of where applicants have experience of the behaviours critical to success in the job, never settling for the generalised responses of “Oh, I do that every day”.  Training in competency based interview techniques is available in Hawke’s Bay and invaluable if interviewing sales staff is a regular part of the job.


Secondly, apply equal persistence and thoroughness when contacting referees, asking them for the same specific examples of where they have displayed the attributes you need in the job.  In sales, it pays to ask for references from clients as well as previous employers, especially where building and maintaining strong client relationships is important.  Just remember to get the applicants permission before contacting additional referees.


Lastly, consider using objective third party advice in the form of sales-specific personality measures to gauge how an applicant compares to other sales people.  The better tools on the market provide fast and strong indications of whether:

  • A candidate simply doesn’t have the characteristics associated with success in a sales environment
  • Whether they have potential to succeed and where you would need to concentrate training and development to get them from good to great performers
  • Or whether they have those sales-superstar characteristics to get your business where you want it to be and should be fast-tracked into the role before they get snapped up elsewhere

Sales-specific questionnaires such as PASAT also identify sales potential among your existing workforce, enabling internal promotion and which demonstrates your commitment to career development and enhances your reputation as an employer of choice.

This month, we are offering the first person to respond to this article a free PASAT test to trial.  Simply send Steve an email and he’ll set up the assessment & send you the corresponding report.